Persistence is a virtue, sometimes.

Homily 393 – 32nd after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
January 26, 2020
Epistle: (280-ctr) 1 Timothy 1:15-17
Gospel: (62) Matthew 15:21-28

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

Persistence is a virtue that doesn’t get mentioned a lot in the Gospels. We have three or four examples in the parables of Christ.

And we have this woman.

What motivates persistence? What causes someone to be persistent? I’m sure there are many, many reasons.

However, there is an underlying foundation on which persistence rests.

At the core, we all recognize that persistence is only fruitful if we understand and believe the person we are being persistent with has the ability to affect the change we desire.

It does no good to be persistent if the place doesn’t have the ability to affect the change.

It does no good to go to the fire department and complain about potholes – no matter how persistently we complain.

It does no good to go to the high school to complain about garbage pickup. It does no good to call the local radio station to complain about the cable service.

We need to know that the ability to do what we ask rests in the person we are asking.

That is one of the amazing aspects of this woman – not Jewish, but rather a Canaanite.

She recognized that this Jewish man had the ability to meet her need. To respond to her love for her daughter.

Jesus first says no – but this woman is persistent. She manages to express that belief in no uncertain terms. Even a crumb of mercy from this Jewish man, this prophet, would be enough to deliver her daughter from the demonic influences on her.

She recognized that this was the messiah – crying out, Son of David! Lord!

Son of David was what the messiah was called.

This was belief, converted to action. It was more than this woman saying “I believe Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah.”

It was putting yourself out there publically, and asking – no, demanding – that the one called Messiah, the one called “Son of David” should do something – should act.

The first time she calls out to Jesus, in the Greek, it is “eleison me Kyrie” – Kyrie eleison, or Lord, have mercy.

The Jesus prayer.

So, the question is there. Why do we not receive what we ask God for?

Could it be that we don’t believe Christ is capable? I really don’t think that is the issue. Most of us here believe and affirm every time we recite the Symbol of Faith, the Nicene Creed, that we know Christ to be identical with God, who created everything that is.

In my case, I never doubted that God was capable – that Christ was capable.

I did, from time to time, doubt that God was willing. That what I asked for was also God’s desire for me. In the words of St. James, we ask and do not receive, because we ask wrongly, to spend it on our passions – our pleasures.

So while persistence continued, the expression of what was wanted changed.

Now, the prayer becomes “I want what you want for me, Lord.” We ask that those we love be delivered, and be healed, and be saved, like this woman asking for the daughter she loved.

And we can be certain that our prayers for others are answered in a similar way. Even if that answer occurs in physical death – for in physical death we find deliverance, and healing, and salvation.

The beginning of life – the beginning of real life.

For ourselves, however, it may be a bit different. We don’t know what is best for us. We have difficulty in diagnosing ourselves – our conditions, our failings, our needs.

In many places, Christ tells us that we don’t even have to ask for those things we need. God will provide us with food, shelter, clothing.

What we have to ask for ourselves is God’s kingdom within us. To be able to worship God on the altar of our own heart. Do devote our entire focus on God – so that He might devote His focus on us.

That’s what God wants anyway! To love us, to shower us with blessing – not material wealth, or material things that will only decay and rust and be destroyed.

With true blessing – Living Water, the bread of life itself.

The Love of God, without which we simply cease to exist.

My beloved, that is what we are asked to be persistent about – attaining the Kingdom of God.

If we persist in this, Christ is faithful to recognize our faith and to answer our request with Himself.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!